Lugana Winery #2, Cantina Ottella: Where Wine & Art Come Together

Cantina Otella sign

In the 16th century, all of the area around the current Cantina Otella winery in Northern Italy was called Otella, which is named for four sets of twins born there. These eight, or “octo,” became the namesake for the area. Stepping out of the bus last fall on my visit to Otella, in the town of Peschiera del Garda, during a Wine Media Conference 2022 excursion, our small group was greeted by current fourth-generation owner Michele Montresor …  and his winery dog, of course! His family has owned this land since 1905. He quickly pointed to the encased ‘coat of arms’ (see right) on display in front of this magnificent and oh-so-modern winery/art museum.

Truth be told, I took very few notes on my tour of Cantina Ottella, as I was entranced by the art and good vibes all around me. I was an art history major in college, and I have a tendency to get lost in art when I’m around it, When you combine art with my other love, wine, it’s just a beautiful sensory overload for me! Fortunately, I have very strong recollections and some pretty good pictures to share from this stellar winery visit. And, the Cantina Ottella web site captures it best, saying the winery is a place where “wine, art, nature and culture come together in perfect harmony, creating emotions that touch the heart.”

Otella’s wines fall into the Lugana DOC, and they are a member of the Consorzio Lugana, whose goal is the protection of Lugana DOC wines. As this is the second of three Lugana wineries I visited (see my previous post on Ca’Lojera), I’ll repeat some key facts about the area and the wines produced there.

Important Facts About Lugana DOC

  • The Lugana appellation is located on the southern end of Lake Garda, with some land going right up to the lake, some of it more inland. 
  • There are about 200 producers in Lugana DOC, from large to tiny.
  • The grape is Turbiana, and most producers use 100% of it in their Lugana Whites. 
  • The soils in Lugana region are morainic, composed of clay topsoil over rock, red soil and iron.
  • Proximity to the Lake Garda influences how much clay is in the soil, and it can be anywhere from 20% to 40%.

The Five Types of Lugana Wine

There are 5 levels of Lugana DOC wines:

Lugana DOC these are the the ‘everyday’ drinkers, fresh, fruity, and lively.

Lugana DOC Superiore  these must age for a least one year.

Lugana DOC Riserva   must age for 2 years, with 6 months of that in the bottle.

Lugana DOC Vendemmia Tardiva  these are Lugana’s late-harvest wines.

Lugana DOC Spumante these are sparkling wines.

Otella: Art + Wine = Divine

Otella is a brand I’ve been long familiar with, as I’ve sold much of it at my sales job at The Wine House. Like most Lugana DOC whites, these are refreshing, highly drinkable, everyday wines that usually come in under $20 a bottle. They pair well with many different foods, as they have lovely acid and a clean, crisp palate. I think of them as a Northern Italian Chablis. As you go up the ladder in quality, where the wines age longer, the prices go up, but they’re still reasonable.

I tasted through Otella’s line and they were well made, totally enjoyable wines. But there were a few that Michele was especially proud of, including a ‘natural’ wine that he ages in amphora, which he calls “Back to Silence,” which is an homage to his father.

collage of Cantina Otella winery

From upper left: Ottella owner Michele Montresor in his amphora room; Michele welcoming visitors in his art-filled garden; Otella barrel; (bottom left) modern and pristine tank room; slick, art-filled tasting room; Ottella’s ‘rain room’

There’s no question that Ottella is a high-end winery, with a major investment of Euros in the product and the property. The extensive art collection alone is worth a fortune, and the tasteful display of the art makes a visit to Ottella well worth it. I did learn that in Italy, a work of art is referred as an ‘opera,’ which originates in the  Latin, meaning ‘activity, effort, attention, work.’ I really like that, and Michele used the word often on his tour, referring to the paintings and objects scattered throughout the extensive, multi-leveled property. The doors alone to the barrel room were an ‘opera,’ larger and more artistic than any I’ve ever seen!

collage of Cantina Otella artwork
Ottella’s gardens are inviting, and a great place for selfies!
Collage of Cantina Otella inside artwork
A few of Ottella’s many works of art, or ‘operas’
Cantina Otella food and bottling area
(top row) Lunch at Ottella was all local specialty dishes, including a pasta in a broccoli puree; (bottom row) Ottella
has a sophisticated and modern facility, with artwork tiles even on the floor of the production facilities.
Ottella is one of the few wineries with it’s own full bottling line.

Cantina Ottella is stunning, well worth the visit, for both the wine and the “operas”!

Read Lugana Winery #1: Ca’Lojera

Until next time, Ciao!